Product Q&A: Building strong relationships with engineers

Giff Constable product management

First Round Capital has a wonderful online network, basically a white-labelled quora, for people at their portfolio companies. While I was with their portfolio company Axial, I answered a number of questions. I’m sharing some of the Q’s I have answered over the last year or two: As a Product Manager or Leader, What tips can you share to build …

Product Q&A: managing external expectations of the product roadmap

Giff Constable product management

First Round Capital has a wonderful online network, basically a white-labelled quora, for people at their portfolio companies. While I was with their portfolio company Axial, I answered a number of questions. I’m sharing some of the Q’s I have answered over the last year or two: How do you best manage expectations/predictability when interfacing (roadmap, status updates, etc) with …

How To Thrive, Not Just Survive, Without a Startup VP of Engineering

Giff Constable startups

Startup CEOs face a very tricky transition period when their software engineering teams are between 10 and 30 people. If you are lucky, your early technical lead can make the transition to managing a growing team and communicating effectively with execs and board members, but that doesn’t always align with people’s interests or capabilities. In this situation, the mistake that …

How we externalize product progress to the company, and defuse politics along the way

Giff Constable product management, startups

It’s depressing how many companies accuse their product and engineering teams of being a black box. The accusations aren’t always fair, but they usually stem from two root problems: 1. not enough collaboration, and 2. not enough externalization. Here’s how we are tackling those two things at our company. Collaboration: We run a bi-weeky “qualitative research” meeting where anyone in …

Rebuilding Trust in a Product Organization

Giff Constable management, product management, startups

When I first joined Axial, the product and engineering side of things was pretty broken, and there was a serious absence of trust. The team didn’t trust leadership, and leadership didn’t trust the team. The rest of the business — actually, even worse, customers — didn’t trust product/engineering. The culprits may sound familiar to some of you: Features took months to ship, if they …

VCs get all the headlines, but there are more financing options out there than you think

Giff Constable finance, startups

Last week I had breakfast with a founder-CEO who had been through the wringer. After spending years building a successful services business, she got squeezed out and screwed by an unscrupulous business partner. Not one to stay down, she picked herself up and started a new firm, only to be diagnosed with cancer. But she kept on fighting. She beat …

Defining our product & engineering team values at Axial

Giff Constable Axial, product management

The product and engineering team at Axial has undergone a lot of change in the last year or so. We survived a major (and fraught) re-architecture effort, we rebuilt the core recommendation/matching engine at the heart of the product, we’ve gone from shipping code every few months to shipping almost everyday, we’ve upped our qualitative research with customers, and we’ve …

Three Little Words for Better Team Communication

Giff Constable Jotto, product management, startups

For the last several years, I’ve been very focused on how to get the most out of product and entrepreneurial teams. Three little words keep on coming back to me. They bite you when you forget them, and pay dividends when you pay them respect. Write it down. Doesn’t seem like much does it? Jeff Patton’s timeless cartoon explains why: …